Being sick can be scary — especially if you have chronic health issues or a complicated condition. You may often feel like the average medical provider knows less about your condition than you do — and that’s dangerous.
There are, however, steps you can take that will make it easier to avoid being victimized by a medical mistake.
The cardinal rules of self-care for patients
Here are the most important things that you can do to advocate for yourself in any medical situation:
- Write down your medical history. A clear, concise list of your diagnoses, history of complications, past symptoms and treatments can help eliminate confusion.
- Keep a list of all your medications and dosages. This should include over-the-counter drugs (even Tylenol) and vitamins, as well as herbal supplements. This can prevent you from having an unfortunate adverse drug reaction due to the interplay between the various treatments.
- Check your list of drug allergies every time. Never assume that your chart is correct. If the nurse or doctor doesn’t ask about your drug allergies, mention the subject to them.
- Ask questions about new treatments. Don’t passively accept a new diagnosis, treatment or medication. Ask your doctor why they are making a diagnosis, prescribing something or have ruled out anything else.
- Understand your after-care instructions. Don’t accept vague answers to your questions. Ask what signs or symptoms are a cause for concern and what to do if you encounter them.
It also helps to bring someone with you to your appointments, especially if you are stressed or experience cognitive difficulties either from your condition or your medications.
When mistakes happen, don’t hesitate to act
When a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or hospital makes an error, patients can suffer greatly. If you have been injured by a medical mistake or a loved one was killed, it’s in your best interests to speak with an attorney as quickly as possible.